Monday, July 19, 2010


Bright and early this Monday morning, my life will take a dramatic turn. For the first time in years, I will climb into my car and drive to work. (as opposed to walking across the hallway from my bedroom to my home office - you can read about what happened to that job here)

I'll park my car near this corner and, while waiting to cross the street, I'll check out what's new in the windows of Pottery Barn (the competition) and J Crew (where I'll try not to spend my whole paycheck).

On my way down the block, I'll pass more tempting shops and restaurants housed in fantastic, original Old Town architecture like this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . before turning into one of the alleys that leads to the courtyard, the heart of One Colorado.

On any given day in the courtyard, I'm likely to encounter such surprises as a 'Rainbow in the Sky' . . .

. . . or a juried show and sale of works by local emerging artists . . .

. . . or the largest free outdoor film festival in Southern California . . .

. . . or live music . . .

. . . or a giant Christmas tree!

On New Year's Day, if I were to stand on this corner, just steps away from my new place of business . . .

. . . I would see this in person instead of on tv.

Back in the courtyard now, have you guessed yet where I'm headed to work? That's right! It's my first day at Crate and Barrel's Pasadena store. Under one of those black awnings is the door that will take me. . .

. . . through the housewares department . . .

. . . and up those stairs . . .

. . . to the furniture floor where I will be surrounded by and selling such beauties as this . . .

. . . and these . . .

. . . and these.

After four weeks of training, by mid-August I'll be on my own, working to help Crate and Barrel customers beautify, energize, design and create that place that's most important to all of us - home.

Wrapping up my old job and preparing to start this new one are what's kept me from posting (and commenting) as much as I'd like to lately and I imagine this adventure might keep me away from the blogs altogether for a while. At least until I get used to my schedule and figure out if blogging still fits into it. I have a couple of half-written posts about a recent "field trip" that I hope to get up soon and, at some point, I'll update you on how the job's shaping up. In the meantime, have a great week and wish me luck!

Oh, and if you find yourself shopping in Old Town—great shopping by the way, if you're unfamiliar with the area—please stop in and say hello!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Artist in Residence

Late one recent evening, my husband and I arrived home from a party to find an artist busily at work in our kitchen. Painting this as a gift for a friend:

She had been inspired by this vintage motto print I keep on a bookshelf:

She believed both the sentiment and the peacock motif would please her friend. Unable to get her hands on another—it's dated '1923' for heaven's sake—she set out to paint her own version. In a slightly different, more youthful colorway. A bit larger than the original too so that it would fit into the thrifted frame she intended to use. It has just the right amounts of age and patina.

I think her friend is one lucky birthday girl, don't you?

At the same time and place she found the gold frame for her friend, she also found this carved wood one for herself. In which to showcase a favorite greeting card.

Talented, smart and industrious. Creative, thoughtful and thrifty. Respectful of the old yet intrigued by the new. Beautiful too, as you can see in the self-portrait she drew for me, below. That's my girl. The artist.

[click to enlarge, if you like]

Oh, and that gorgeous frame I propped in front of her drawing? She thrifted that too. Add 'good eye' and 'excellent taste' to the above list.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New Art Arrangement Over My Sofa

This vintage print has hung over my living room sofa for about a year now. I found it in an antiques and collectibles co-op in Bakersfield, CA that occupies an old Woolworth's department store—a great place worth visiting if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods. You can spend hours shopping for treasures on multiple floors then replenish your energy with a burger and a milkshake at the original luncheonette counter!

I actually passed on the print when I first spotted it because I already had so much set aside to buy. But it was one of those things I thought about for the next few days after I got back home. That's happened to you too, right? So, knowing my mom would be in the area again within the week, I asked her to pick it up for me—fingers crossed that it would still be there. Happily, it was and it's lived somewhere in my living room ever since. I really, really love it—the colors, the subject matter, that great frame— but at 34"x24" I've always known it was too small to hang over the sofa by itself. Because I wanted it there anyway, I hung two creamy decorative plates one above the other to the right of the print to create an arrangement with more weight. It looked forced and just not right. What to do? Ignore it of course! Until one day last week when I couldn't stand it any longer and decided to dig through my inspiration files.

A gallery or salon style arrangement is what I really wanted. Something along the lines of the one above from or the one below from See how much space they fill over these sofas? Linda Crisolo, Marketing Director of says we should "make sure artwork is at least two-thirds the size of the sofa. For example, a 9-foot-long sofa should have a 6-foot-wide expanse of art above it." My 34" wide print was barely filling one third of my almost eight-foot wide sectional.

When it comes to salon style art, I am drawn to a looser arrangement of prints like those seen above. You may prefer a tighter, more controlled arrangement like the one below I found on Martha Stewart's website. I do have one small bone to pick with Martha, however, and I'll turn again to Linda Crisolo of to explain what that is: "People have a tendency to hang art too high," says Linda "The center of the image should be at eye level. In living rooms, people are usually sitting, so artwork should be lower. A good way to ensure you're placing artwork at the right height is to hang it one hand width above the sofa". Sorry, Martha. There are too many hands between your sofa and your art. It certainly is expertly aligned though.

Speaking of alignment, here's a look I love, from Traditional Home magazine, that is absolutely wrong for my room. Black and white photos of trees hung on a tight grid fill the space over this sofa—side to side as well as from just above the sofa to very near the ceiling; fifteen individual pieces reading as one large work of art. Beautiful, quiet symmetry. Inspiration photos can sometimes show you what won't work in your space as much as what might and, as I mentioned, I like things a little more mixed-up and colorful than this.

Now, here's some great color! Gorgeous panels that, again, completely fill the available space, below. Love the furniture, love the tablescape, LOVE the art and color story, but there's still something here that's not quite "me". Maybe "me" in a different kind of house, but not in this cottagey little ranch-ette I'm living in.

Aha! Now this one, below, is definitely me! This page torn from one of last year's Better Homes and Gardens speaks to me, first, because I am a complete sucker for striped walls (never mind that there is not one striped wall in my home) and, second, because I love the mix of vintage-looking art and colors and the variety of frame shapes and sizes. I also like the use of dimensional objects such as the plates and vase. But I already have a wall-mounted lamp on my wall so I'll reject the idea of dimensional art while I embrace the use of multiple colors, a vintage feel and subjects found in nature.

Inspiration image in mind, I poked around in closets and under beds for art to buddy-up with my favorite print from Woolworth's. Here's what I came up with:

The lighting is a little dim in this room even on the brightest day, and lately we've been having a lot of gloomy ones, so please bear with my amateur skills. Natural light photos without the lamps lit gave me the best results. And besides, my million-year-old sofa would rather be captured in low light and fuzzy focus anyway, thankyouverymuch. Looks good from back here, doesn't she? Especially with all her pretty mixed-up pillows acting as distractions.

I found a nice mix of frames to complement my centerpiece: a green one, a black one, a little gold one and two distressed white ones. The subjects too complement the central landscape: one vintage botanical greeting card, a floral watercolor, two bird prints and one seaside painting on a postcard. The mix of colors and styles feels just right.

I purposefully placed the arrangement slightly off-center above the sofa and closer to the table lamp than to the wall lamp because I didn't want the wall fixture to appear as part of the group. Placed this way, the grouping also hangs more toward the center of the room which is most pleasing when this wall is viewed from adjacent rooms. Long explanation shortened: it just looks better that way!

See that light fixture on the wall up there? That's my solution to lighting over the corner of the sectional. I didn't want to place a table or a floor lamp behind/beside the sofa, so we mounted an old yard sale find on the wall. Its twin lives on the same wall at the other end of the room. Lit at the same time, they help fill the room with light when we have a crowd. This one lit by itself provides just the right light for reading (and blogging) when I'm tucked up into the corner of the sofa.

Gallery and salon style arrangements are not new to my house. I've always enjoyed massing art and objects together—sometimes a little too much. Sometimes to the point that I tire right away of the visual "clutter" and have to take everything down and start over. More than once on the same day I put it all up! This wall though seems quieter to me than other arrangements I've put together. That it's been up for almost a week and not one thing about it "bothers" me when I pass through this room tells me that it might be here to stay a while. At least I hope so. I have too many other unfinished projects to attend to. . .

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Softer Side of Outdoor Decor

"Mom. Look at this picture."

"Oh! Look how cute you all are! Where is this? Santa Cruz?"

"Yeah. We were walking down to the beach."

"You have such a beautiful smile. I wish you'd stand up straight though."

"Mom. Stop it. Didn't you notice the tree?"

"What? Oh! Why is that there?"

"Somebody just did it. Isn't it cool? It's called 'urban knitting'. Here, look at these..."

"Wow. That's, um, very interesting. They do that without permission? Like tagging? I guess it's better than spray-painted graffitti. Will it hurt the trees?"

"Oh my god, Mom. No, I don't think so. It's just supposed to be pretty."

"Well, it is that. Where did you find these?"

"Here. And here."

"Can I blog this? Can I use your picture?"


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Crazy Daze of Summer

Chaos still reigns at my house, this first week of summer being perhaps the busiest since it all began. I am working crazy long hours at a job that is ending. Ironic, no? College Girl is still here and has extended her stay by as many weeks as it takes for her future roommates to find them all a decent place to live. We've had a house guest. I've been on two job interviews. Met with a client to consult on her kitchen/family room remodel. Had lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in ages. And there's still one more day to go! And one too many cats in my house. I'm pretty sure he's on my dining room table as I type this. He'll head up the coast when College Girl goes. Her I'll miss; him, not so much. If it weren't for my husband keeping us fed and the kitchen clean, things would be much, much worse.

So it was with great delight and a long sigh of relief that I happened upon these photos of a beach house that took me away for a much-needed imagination vacation..... My faux-cation begins with a stretch and a yawn as I wake in this quietly serene bedroom. A bit of vintage makes me feel right at home.

I toddle out through the dining room in my jammies and bare feet—the better to fully enjoy that cool blue floor—

and into the kitchen to pour myself a giant cup of whatever the staff has prepared for me today. Vanilla latte and carrot spice muffins? It must be Thursday.
I take my breakfast into the sun-filled living room. Love that glossy ceiling and the way it bounces the morning light all around. Makes reading my requisite trashy novels so much easier.
My plans for the day include alternating walks on the beach with naps on this lovely private patio. While I have no intentions to play chess—a vacation is for resting my brain, not hurting it— I'll be quite happy to simply contemplate this unique "board". The quiet colors and lush greenery have such a calming effect on me that zzzzzzzzzzz

Sorry, I dozed off! Excuse me while I duck into the bath to splash some cool water on my tanned, relaxed face. I'll only be a few minutes and then we can stroll into town for drinks and dinner. Thanks so much for driving out to join me!
When we return to the cottage and it's time to tuck in for the night, I'm sure you'll enjoy the cozy guest room. Don't you love those twin headboards? I myself am inspired to bring this idea to College Girl's room re-do. After she leaves of course. No bad cats allowed on those beautiful beds.

As much as I love my home full of color and pattern, a house full of white and quiet looks like heaven to me right now. Unfortunately, this is not a beach rental but the Fire Island getaway of one Alex Bates, creative director at West Elm. As seen in the June issue of Country Living magazine. And in my dream vacation dreams.

Inspired By Fridays at The Inspired Room